Scrutinising the Cornish Bursary

The chance for Councillors of Cornwall Council to ask questions on the proposals for a Cornish Bursary took place today. Members of the OSC were requested to submit any questions prior to this meeting. This was to make sure detailed answers were provided. This did not mean further questions could not be asked. As many more were.

As I have said before, I think any scheme that helps young adults to stay in education is to be welcomed. Even with a good scheme, the job of the OSC is to make sure that scheme is fit for purpose, and if there are any doubts, these should be addressed before the scheme is implemented.

Many questions were asked included why Cornwall Council was only going to fund Level 3 courses (A-Levels, NVQ Level 3, BTEC etc). This is because the Government is providing £6m to cover Level 2 and under course. The Council felt this money would be better targeted in another area. In principle I can agree with this view, but my worry would be if any children miss out on level 2 course because there is not enough money from government.

The two questions I asked were on where this money for the first year was coming from, and how this scheme would be funded after the initial two year period. The first question was answered. It turns out there is some surplus in Convergence Money (skills funding agency). The council has checked to see the legal position on how this money could be spent. It turns out this surplus can be used for this scheme. Again, I welcome this.

The second question however did not have such a great answer. In fact, the answer got me quite angry and disappointed. You see, no money has been identified post the two year period. In a rather simplistic answer was ‘it would be the new councils problem.’ That point of the answer was the most upsetting. No matter how good a scheme it is let down by the simple fact of no, or very limited forward planning for funding!

Words of we will investigate areas of funding is hardly reassuring. If this scheme is such a good idea, then work now, before implementation, should be carried out; or at least highlighting possible areas of funding. This sadly was not the case.

After over two hours of debate with some very good point being made, as set of recommendations was made, and voted on.

  1. The Children, Education and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee (CEFOSC) should endorse the proposal for the Cornwall Bursary and its implementation in 2012/13
  2. A review of should the bursary include those studying Level 2 qualifications
  3. Request a written report/questionnaire to be provided at the end of the year on how the money has been used and the impact of the scheme.
  4. The OSC will see the eligibility criteria of each provider
  5. Review of the education provision of the 14-19 offer in North and SE Cornwall
  6. On going review of the funds and report back to the OSC after the first academic term
  7. Director of CSF to investigate other forms of funding for those who fall into the trap of the Cornwall/Devon border.

I voted in favour of this scheme because it is a very good idea. Yes, there are some issues, the biggest being the future funding, but with the OSC chasing up this issue I am happy something will be done about it.

The Government has failed to provide adequate provision for a bursary/EMA, so it is left to the council to pick up this. If not, many young adults will not be in the financial position to further their education.

Cornwall Council should be congratulated for taking the lead, and no doubt other authorities will follow Cornwall Council’s lead.

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